Prize-winning bulls more suited to factory than breeding, says expert

To maximise fertility, bulls, need to grow naturally at 1-1.5kg /day to ensure optimum development.Stock image.
To maximise fertility, bulls, need to grow naturally at 1-1.5kg /day to ensure optimum development.Stock image.
Ciaran Moran

Ciaran Moran

A cultural change is needed to encourage herdowners to rely more on a breeding index rather than relying on a high level of feeding to estimate the genetic potential of bulls.

That’s according to Doreen Corridan, Munster Cattle Breeding Group who outlined in a recent paper on pedigree bull production in Ireland that this will allow young bull’s time to develop mating ability and finally have enough bull power on farms to allow for the correct ratio of males to females

Corridan outlined that pedigree bulls are purchased in Ireland from 12 to 18 months of age, the majority are purchased privately on farm from the breeder, 10-15pc are sold at sales.

She said in general prices range from €2,000 to €5,000 with a small number of exceptional bulls selling for more than €10,000.

“Usually it is the first prize winners or the champions at the presale show that command the higher prices.

“Often these bulls have been shown throughout the summer at shows as calves from six months of age onwards.

“As pedigree breeding is not a very profitable enterprise (margins are similar to other beef systems in Ireland, without the single farm payment margins of - €150 to + €250 per hectare not including a labour charge), breeders focus on achieving success at the presale shows to maximise their sale price,” Corridan said.

She added that these shows are judged purely on visual looks and the prize winners will have gained in excess of 2kg/day from birth and need to exhibit extreme muscling and a 4-5 fat score for success, many purchasers apply the same criteria when purchasing on farm.

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“Many of these prizewinning bulls are more fit for slaughter than fit for service,” she said.

According to Corridan, to maximise fertility, bulls, need to grow naturally at 1-1.5kg /day to ensure optimum development.

“The level of feeding required from an early age to compete at the presale shows at 12 – 15 months has a negative impact on the musculo-skeletal system, hoof quality, liver and testicular function.

“This is compounded by the fact that purchasers buy their bulls literally the week they need them to breed cows.

“Often these bulls go from receiving more than 10kg of concentrates per day in a confined pen without any exercise to being let run at pasture with breeding females and without supplementary concentrates.

“These bulls fatigue quickly and lose weight rapidly often 50-100kg in 30-60 days, this has a direct adverse effect on fertility.

“Purchasers are reluctant to purchase their bulls 2-3 months in advance to allow time for acclimatization to their new home, time to reduce the level of concentrates to a predominantly forage diet, time for vaccination pre-service and time for the bull to be trained to serve,” she said.

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